Frog of the Week

River Frog (Rana heckscheri)

rana_heckscheri02
photo from the USGS

least concern
Common Name: River Frog
Scientific Name: Rana (Aquarana) heckscheri
Family: Ranidae – True Frog family
Locations: United States – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina
Introduced Location: China
Size: 3.5 – 6 inches (90 – 155 mm)

The River Frog is found in the southeast United States but has slowly disappearing along the edges of the range, including totally from North Carolina and Alabama. The main reason for the decline is believed to be from habitat loss.

The River Frog produces toxins that are harmful to some predators including Indigo Snakes (Drymarchon) and water snakes. After eating the frog, these predators will throw up the frog and then wipe its mouth on the ground afterwords. They seem to be harmless to humans and are relatively easy to catch compared to other frogs. I wouldn’t try eating them though.

Breeding for the frog takes place from April to August, if conditions are right. They mate in permanent bodies of water due to tadpoles taking over a year to undergo metamorphosis. The tadpoles will remain active during winter.

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Other Amphibian of the Week

Red Hills Salamander (Phaeognathus hubrichti)

Red Hills Salamander - Phaeognathus hubrichti
photo by  John P. Clare

Conservation status is Endangered

Common Name: Red Hills Salamander
Scientific Name: Phaeognathus hubrichti
Family: Plethodontidae – Lungless Salamander family
Locations: United States – Alabama
Size:  10.5 inches (27 cm)

The Red Hills Salamander is the state amphibian of Alabama, the only state it can be found in. More specifically, it can be found in the Red Hills region of southern Alabama, hence the name. They are a fossorial species of salamander, staying underground most of their life. Most of their life history is unknown due to them being fossorial.

What is known is that the Red Hills Salamander does not breed in water, but in their burrows. No mating displays or actually breeding as been observed. Females can lay around 6-16 eggs at a time. Its believed that the eggs hatch in around two months into tiny salamanders.

While the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list lists the salamander as endangered, the United States only lists them as threatened. Because of this, most of their land is privately owned by paper companies, that clear cut their habitat for the wood. Luckily, the Nature Conservatory bought almost 2,000 acres of land to protect the salamanders.

Other Amphibian of the Week

California Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon ensatus)

california_giant_salamander
photo by William Flaxington

nearthreatened
Common Name: California Giant Salamander
Scientific Name: Dicamptodon ensatus
Family: Dicamptodontidae – Pacific Giant Salamander Family
Locations: United States – California
Size: 12 inches for terrestrial forms, 13 inches for aquatic

The California Giant Salamander is found in northwestern coastal forests of California with cold streams and ponds. They use these streams to breed during the spring with most of the egg laying in May. Breeding could also occur in the fall. Between 70 to 100 eggs are laid in the streams. Larvae salamanders can take up to 2 years to develop into terrestrial adults if they ever do. There has been observed neotenic populations of the California Giant Salamanders. These neotenic salamanders retain their larval characteristics such as their gills but are capable of reproduction.

The California Giant Salamander is listed as as Near Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The main threats to the survival of the salamander is the encroachment of humans on their small habitat. Their habitat is great for logging but logging is not good for the salamanders. Also towns are growing and need more land.

 

tree frog thursday

Mountain Chorus Frog (Pseudacris brachyphona)

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Mountain Chorus Frog  – photo by Todd Pierson

least concern
Common Name: Mountain Chorus Frog
Scientific Name: Pseudacris brachyphona
Family: Hylidae – Tree Frog family
Locations: United States – Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania
Size: 1.25 inches

The Mountain Chorus Frog is found in and around the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States. The frog starts breeding when they wake up from their hibernation generally around late February and early March. The males call sounds like reeking sound. Females can lay 300 to 1500 eggs in a clutch. No parental care has been reported in the Mountain Chorus Frog. The eggs hatch in 7-10 days and the tadpoles undergo metamorphosis in a month or two. The Mountain Chorus Frog is a terrestrial species of tree frog. They spend most of their time on the ground.

Toad Tuesday

Coastal Plains Toad (Incilius nebulifer)

coastalplainstoad
photo by Kevin Young

least concern
Common Name: Coastal Plains Toad
Scientific Name: Incilius nebulifer
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad Family
Location: Mexico and the United States
US Locations: Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi
Size: 5 inches

The Coastal Plains Toad used to be part of the Gulf Coast Toad (Incilius valliceps) species but was split off due to genetic testing. It is still kinda confusing even though it happened over 20 years ago.

The spring and summer rains bring the males out to start calling to attract females. They will breed in a variety of still-water sources such as ponds, wetlands, and roadside ditches. Females can lay up to 20,000 eggs in a clutch and have been observed to lay two clutches in extended breeding seasons. Neither the male or female show any parental care towards the eggs. The eggs will hatch in a day or two and the tadpoles will complete metamorphosis in 20 to 30 days.

The Coastal Plains Toad has adapted alright to the urbanization of their habitat. They have been observed to hide under concrete slabs and in cracks and holes of sidewalks.

Frog of the Week

Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas)

westerntoad.JPG
photo by Walter Siegmund

least concern
Common Name: Western Toad
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus boreas
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: Canada, Mexico, and the United States
US Locations: Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming
Size: 5 inches

The Western Toad is found in western North America, from Alaska down to Baja California. There are two subspecies of the toad, the California Toad (A. b. halophilus) and the Boreal Toad (A. b. boreas). The California Toad is found in California (duh), northern Baja California, and western Nevada. The Boreal Toad is found in the northern parts of the range.

 

westerntoad
photo from USGS/Chris Brown

Some populations of the Western Toad are not doing so hot. Western Toads are listed in Colorado as an endangered species. They are listed as a protected species in Wyoming. Chytrid Fungus, a deadly pathogen, seems to be the main problem for the Western Toads. Habitat destruction is another problem for the toads.

 

Frog of the Week

Lowland Burrowing Tree Frog (Smilisca fodiens)

photo by Rafael Alejandro Calzada-Arciniega

least concern
Common Name: Lowland Burrowing Tree Frog, Northern Casquehead Frog,
Scientific Name: Smilisca fodiens
Family: Hylidae – Tree Frog family
Locations: Mexico and the United States
US Location: Arizona
Size: 2.5 inches

The Lowland Burrowing Tree Frog is not your typical tree frog, it doesn’t live in the trees, it lives in burrows. It lives in the desert so the they need to keep moist. The burrows they live in are very moist. If the moisture leaves during periods of drought, the Lowland Burrowing Tree Frog can create a cocoon out of their outer skin to help keep them moist. After the rains come and the frog doesn’t need the cocoon anymore, the frog will break out and then eat the cocoon.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Greater Siren (Siren lacertina)


leastconcern

Common Name: Greater Siren
Scientific Name: Siren lacertina
Family: Sirenidae
Location: United State – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia
Size: 3.2 feet or 98 cm

The Greater Siren (and all Sirens) is found in the Southeastern United States. It is the largest of all the sirens, with some reaching over 3 feet long. Just like all sirens, they lack hind legs but they still retain their gills into adulthood. Not much is known about the biology of the Greater Siren because of their secretive nature as they hide in burrows during the day and are slightly more active during the night.

 

 

Frog of the Week

Smoky Jungle Frog (Leptodactylus pentadactylus)

smokyjungle (2)

leastconcern

Common Name: Smoky Jungle Frog
Scientific Name: Leptodactylus pentadactylus
Family: Leptodactylidae
Location: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru, and Suriname
Size: 7.2 inches / 185 mm

The Smoky Jungle Frog is one of the largest frogs in the world, with females reaching over 7 inches long while males are slightly smaller. The frogs have a long life span that can reach over 15 years.

Mating takes place during the rainy months. Females form foam nests that the eggs are laid into to protect them from the environment. Not all eggs are fertilized, when the tadpoles emerge, they eat the unfertilized eggs.

The super power of the Smoky Jungle Frog is its anti predator defense system where its able to secrete vast amounts of mucus when attacked. Besides the mucus being gross,  it is also toxic so any predator won’t want to eat them.

Herper of the week

Herper of the Week: Dr. Amanda Zellmer

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The goal of Herper of the Week is to highlight people from all walks of life who work with reptiles and amphibians and show their work to others. This month, all the Herpers of the Week will be women for Women’s History Month. This week’s Herper is Dr Amanda Zellmer, Assistant Professor of Biology at Occidental College. She leads the Occidental College Computational Biology Lab.

Dr. Amanda Zellmer’s research focuses on the utility and development of computational methods for studying spatial ecological and evolutionary processes, particularly in the context of conservation biology. Her work usually deals with amphibians but has done research on other animals. She also is very interested in urban salamanders and showing that their is wildlife in LA.

She earned her Bachelors of Science from the University of Wisconsin. She earned her Ph.D from the University of Michigan.